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What's love got to do with it?

A couple of years ago in a conversation with a senior manager about a potential new role, he said something you don’t hear often in business: “To do this job you have to be a little bit in love with it.” Until the moment he said that I had been there because I had the sense this opportunity was one I had to take for political reasons, but when he said that, something changed, I got interested.

Now this was not the sort of word I’d expect from most senior managers in the organisation and certainly not from this manager, whom I knew by reputation only at that moment. I got the job and though I officially reported to someone else this manager will remain with me as one of, if not the best manager I have worked for, and that had to do with the love he brought to the work.

And in a way it is strange how little we speak of love in relation to work. Love is such a driving force that leads us to create things, that it would be strange if love were absent at work. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend so much time on something we love?

It’s a different love perhaps, and still love is to me a word that best describes the combination of care, passion and belonging we might feel at work. And I have always tried to do work I love or love the work I do. Some of us are luckier than others to be able to do work we love and at the same time we can always try and find something to love about our work. After all our human capacity for love is rather amazing.

Years ago when facilitating a programme a colleague and friend gave me the tip that when I found a participant difficult the best way to deal with that was to love them. I thought it sounded a bit funny at first, I mean this person was annoying me, how could I just love them. I tried it, and found it worked, when I extended a feeling like love towards the other person it was a lot easier to work with them. You could call it compassion or appreciation, whatever name you use, that feeling that the other matters, that you want to work with them rather than against them.

In my experience that’s what love has got to do with work, it makes it more meaningful, easier and more purposeful too. And unlike time, love doesn’t seem to have a limit to it, loving our work, feeling deep appreciation for the people we work with, it doesn’t detract from the love we can extend to family, spouses, friends and other dear ones.

For me loving my work, my colleagues and participants has become a practice, I know I don’t always succeed, and when I do I am at my best.

Working for the manager I mentioned above I saw the impact it had on his people, many people who had worked for him were incredibly loyal and clearly appreciated working for him. He would think about the people working for him beyond their working, sending flowers when the spouse of an employee got ill, checking in if the distant location was still ok for another. When he moved and was replaced by someone else,who had all the words of a good leader and less of the love, things changed. For me that was enough to decide to leave, without the passion, the job wasn’t so interesting after all.

My guess is that the leader I am writing about would be surprised to read this – he might even be a bit embarrassed, and that’s ok, love isn’t about words, it is about action.

This is nr 12 in a series of 13 about my insights from 2013 which i took into 2014 ... These have been published on my earlier website and I am reposting them here because they still feel relevant.

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